Take two cops. One heads up the Anti-Crime Unit (OCU) and the other is the head honcho of the tactical unit (BRI). When the Police Commissioner decides to step away and head off to his retirement, the Chief of Detectives is going to go upstairs and take over the huge corner office replacing the Commissioner. Before he does so, he tips off both of his top cops that one of them is going to get the nod to fill his position.
But the Chief of Detectives has a local mess on his hands. That would be the crime wave of armored car robberies likely committed by the same gang. The C of D tells his men, that he wants this gang busted. He wants them to go out of business, and he doesn’t care if they’re dead or alive – but he does warn his guys about the police procedures and the expectations.
The OCU guy is a bad-ass. He’s corrupt, he’s brutal, he won’t take no for an answer, and there’s nothing he won’t do to capture these guys who are running all over town taking down scores like the gang in Heat. He also drinks to excess, and if bed-hopping around town and cheating on your wife wasn’t bad enough, this guy is also having an affair with one of his subordinates.
The BRI Tactical guy is a different animal. He’s fearless, he tougher than tough, he adores his wife and their daughter, The wife was at one time was the girl friend of the OCU guy. So right away you know that the sparks are going to fly. But our Tactical guy is also loyal to his men, and to his snitches.
One day, he’s going to get a call from a guy who is getting a weekend furlough from prison. Our BRI guy was the one who got this guy captured and incarcerated. But this guy says he can break the case about the armored car robberies for this detective. In exchange he needs an alibi.
The tip proves accurate. The Tactical Squad is set in motion. Only the OCU guy can’t allow his opponent to make the case and get the promotion. So somehow, he’s going to get in the way and try to make the case himself.
There’s your set up. Competing detectives, a large group of major crime unit cases that have to be resolved, and a prize job awaits the guy who can make the case first. Sounds a bit like Heat with the crimes, and sounds a bit like Heat with the two main superstar leads ‘gunning’ for each other. And it is in a huge urban area.
So by now you must be saying this sounds really interesting. How come I’ve not heard of it. First of all it’s not set in L.A. Instead we are in Paris, France. The two superstar leads are Gerard Depardieu and Daniel Auteuil who starred opposite one another all the way back in 1986 in the classic French drama Jean de Florette. The reason you may not know about this film is that distribution rights to this film were sold across the globe except to some one for the United States. That means you couldn’t see it in a theater, or buy it on a DVD. But that changed recently.
36th Precinct has a French title – which is 36 Quai des Orfevres which happens to be the address of Police Headquarters in Paris. Directed by Olivier Marchal who is a former police officer himself – the film hits all the right notes as a police procedural. But there is a sense that the film weakens in the second half when the film switches gears and becomes a two man revenge driven vehicle.
Depardieu has the role of Denis Klein, the OCU guy. He’s a large man, so besides having a commanding presence, he also commands a lot space physically. He’s the kind of guy that takes what he wants, he shoots first and asks question later, and he generates animosity in all of those he comes in contact within. In short he rules by intimidation.
Auteuil plays Leo Vrinks. His men love him, he inspires confidence, and yet he’s not afraid to bend the rules if it will help him solve a case. When career criminal Hugo Silien approaches him with the offer of case-breaking intel, Vrinks can’t say no. He knows he’s stepping into some deep shit – but he can’t have the number of armed robbery cases, some resulting in deaths, continue to go unchecked.
This is not the glamorous Paris, the City of Lights, that we are going to see as the backdrop to this story. More accurately, this is the underbelly of Paris. Where crimes occur and the locales are the ones that tourists never hear about. The film comes down to a ruthless competition between top cops; a competition so intense, that the lines dividing the police from the criminals not only blurs, but also becomes non-existent.
Despite the let down in the second half, the film is still worthwhile and I’m going to rate it at four point zero. The film was released in 2004 but it only became available in the USA recently. Netflix has it, and the DVD, released by Palisades Tartan Video, became available this past June.